AD&D Figurines: Youth In a Box?

AD&D Figurines: Youth In a Box?

DSC04791A few weeks back, a friend (quite unexpectedly) handed me the boxed set of AD&D miniatures pictured at right. I say “unexpectedly” because so far as I know, this friend had no idea that I ever played D&D. Nor were the figures intended for me; the note she enclosed made it clear the box was for my fourteen-year-old son, “just in case.”

My son was marginally interested, but not seriously so. I, however, was kind of downright sorta hypnotized.

Confession: I never gravitated to miniatures. My twin objections were, first, that the figures never, ever looked the way I pictured either my characters or those of my fellow gamers, and second, they were small enough that painting them to my own exacting standards was next to impossible.

I had Testor’s model paint, of course (most boys I knew in the late seventies and early eighties did), so accessing a mouth-watering color palette wasn’t the issue.

Application, however: yipes!

DSC04793Most of the D&D gamers I knew didn’t rely on miniatures for conducting their adventures anyway, so the utility of any figures that came my way was highly suspect. I had a few, yes: a dwarf, possibly more than one; an ogre that I really did try to paint well. I remember only that the ogre had flame red eyes. (No pupils, of course; that would have required a microscope and a steadier hand.)

Once placed on a grid map, my recollection is that figurines were only semi-reliable. The larger ones tended to tip over, and when they did, they not only shocked we players out of the vivid reality of whatever combat scenario we’d fallen into, but they tended to take their opponents down with them. Setting these strays back on their pedestals led to needless debates about who was on what square.

Our eventual solution: when we actually needed markers for difficult combat, we used coins and various colors of six-sided dice. That was the end of anything falling over, and it never seemed to interfere with the game’s verisimilitude. Go figure.

DSC04792But for all my carping and ambivalent memories, this box came loaded with instant nostalgia. For one thing, the figurines within had that D&D smell. Unmistakable. And, as you can see, they were unpainted, all but begging for attention.

They also arrived replete with mystery. The manufacturer’s I.D. sheet (condescending, if you ask me) doesn’t mention a dragon. Yet there it is, smack dab in the middle.

Plus, there’s this other critter, of which I’ve provided a close-up. No idea what it is. A troll? To me, it looks like H.R. Giger’s version of an alien. What do you think?

I have no plans to paint these. Nor does my son. I no longer game often enough to employ these in any useful way. I don’t know anyone locally who does.

The logical course? Sell this little treasure trove on eBay or donate them to a thrift shop.

DSC04794But I don’t think I’ll do that.

I like having a little bit of my history in the house, and thanks to this surprise gift, any time I wish to rocket myself back to 1981, all I need do is open the lid…

…and inhale.


Mark Rigney is currently serializing a brand-new novel on the Black Gate site, In the Wake Of Sister Blueand it’s available absolutely free, just click on the title. He has previously published three stories in the Black Gate Online Fiction library: ”The Trade,” “The Find,” and “The Keystone.” Tangent called the tales “Reminiscent of the old sword & sorcery classics… once I started reading, I couldn’t stop. I highly recommend the complete trilogy.” In other work, Rigney is the author of “The Skates,” and its haunted sequels, “Sleeping Bear,” Check-Out Time, and Bonesy. His website is

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Joe H.

Hmmm … Not sure about the Mystery Figure. But I do think here’s been some mixing & matching from multiple different sets into that box.

I used to have one of the other boxes back in the day, but I also couldn’t come close to painting them and they just kind of languished.

James McGlothlin

That D&D smell–ah!, someone who finally understands!

James McGlothlin

Remember when a TSR box set came with a wax crayon to fill in the numbers on your dice? That had a certain smell to it as well.

Or how about when you opened a new D&D module out of the shrink wrap?

Is this getting weird?

Ty Johnston

Somebody should contact WoTC. They should put that smell in a can and sell it.

Nick Ozment

Best guess on the Mystery Figure: a lizard man.

James Maliszewski

I think that the “mystery figures” are both post-AD&D Grenadier miniatures released as part of their “Dragon Lords” line. I’ve been trying to find an image online to confirm this hunch, but, so far, no luck.

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